Cigarettes After Sex serenaded and seduced fans at the Wiltern Thursday night. The sultry, ambient pop band originally from El Paso, Texas are just beginning their headlining tour supporting Cry, set for release October 25. If you missed their sold out LA show, they’ve got dates all over the globe through early April.
The evening began with a screening of “You’re the Only Good Thing in My Life,” a short film from the band. The “short film” consisted almost entirely of a single animated shot of a beach front in the rain with melodic piano playing over the silently crashing waves. After roughly five minutes, simple phrases began to appear over the unmoving clouds, each on display for no more than 30 seconds. The first said “you only fuck for love” and continued with countless others like “love is always strange when it just starts,” “you told me you could never get enough,” and finally the apt “you make me think of storms on the beach.”
These fragments felt like shards of memories you cling to from exchanges with a lover. However, the exceedingly dull film pushed the crowd from excited anticipation to restlessness to pure annoyance. “We’re being played, bad,” said one patron about 15 minutes into the short. A large group cheered as they made free throws of beer cans into the trash. The rest of the concert-goers settled on simply talking over the accompanying piano. After 30 minutes, we finally caught a glimpse of a coastal sunset over the shoulder of a blonde women; the words “you’re the only good thing in my life” gracing the screen.
At long last, the light from the projector dimmed and the dreamy set began. “Opera House” opened the show laying the noir ambience on thick. The tempo and mood lightened with “Crush”. New songs off Cry such as “Falling in Love” and lead single “Heavenly” blended the carnal subtlety of their debut self titled album with a warmer palette. During the chorus of songs like “Each Time You Fall in Love” and “Keep On Loving You” (an REO Speedwagon cover) short vignettes appeared on the screen. A house up in flames, a close up of a woman with tears rolling down her cheeks, and (what I’m almost positive was) a clip from the 1991 film from Krzysztof Kieślowski, The Double Life of Véronique.
The irony of the inclusion of a moment from a film I studied as part of my thesis and later bonded over with a past lover is not lost on me. Gonzalez’s tender, androgynous vocals paired with the echoing guitar generate a nostalgic kind of melancholy, like listening to songs only through your memories of hearing them. Simply, Cigarettes After Sex is music of the memories of lovers.
Words and Photos by Kirby Gladstein